the weblog of Alan Knox

How will they hear without a preacher?

Posted by on Jan 22, 2010 in discipleship, scripture | 29 comments

The title of my post comes from Romans:

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:13-15 ESV)

What context did Paul have in mind when he asked the question, “And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” If we read the question in context we understand that Paul is talking about “preaching” to those who have not called on the Lord, who have not believed in him, and who have not heard of him.

What does this mean? The audience for the “preacher” in this passage is not composed of the church or believers. Instead, the “preacher” is sent to those who are not yet believers – that is, to unbelievers. (If we read the broader context of Romans chapters 9-11, we’ll see that unbelievers are Paul’s focus.)

In other words, Paul is not talking about what takes place every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night in so many churches… what we call “preaching.” Instead, Paul is talking about “preaching” (that is, proclaiming or announcing) the gospel to those who are not believers.

It’s past time for us to start using words properly, and stop confusing definitions and biblical mandates.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 1-22-2010


  2. 1-22-2010

    It’s past time for us to start using words properly, and stop confusing definitions and biblical mandates.

    Amen!! Thank you for saying this so plainly.

  3. 1-22-2010

    But there are unbelievers in the church right?

  4. 1-22-2010

    So how are those unbelievers that come to our church going to hear, unless our preacher preaches to him? The Reformers are shifting in their graves right now, some may be ready to drown a heretic in NC!

  5. 1-22-2010

    Lionel, I think Paul answered that question in 1 Corinthians 14:24-25. Although I get the impression you are asking the question with tongue in cheek 😉

  6. 1-22-2010

    Argh, you beat me to it! I had a post queued up on this very thing. Ah well, I am posting it tomorrow anyway.

  7. 1-22-2010

    8) @ Steve

  8. 1-22-2010


    Thanks for inspiring my next “Scripture… As We Live It” passage. 🙂


  9. 1-22-2010

    Oops… I already did that “Scripture… As We Live It”:

    I’m glad that I checked.


  10. 1-22-2010


    All I can say is “Hear! Hear!”

    I understood that passage of Scripture, in exactly the sense you describe, over 50 years ago. It was the catalyst for entering, what in those days was called, by the terribly misleading misnomer, “full time ministry”. I was so moved by it that I wept over those who hadn’t heard, and determined to teach others to be “preachers”.

  11. 1-22-2010

    How are you Aussie J? God bless and Happy New Year!

  12. 1-23-2010

    Great post Alan…

  13. 1-23-2010

    Alan and others,
    I appreciate this blog. Very interesting. I like this post. It is true that the audience in Romans 10 was those who had not yet believed Christianity. It seems interesting to me that the end of the passage quotes Ps 19, and that passage is about the voice of the creation, not a man.
    On another angle, there must have been a way that the servant of God spoke to the people of God as well, for Paul put Timothy in Ephesus and Titus in Crete for the maintenance of the flock.
    Comments about that?


  14. 1-23-2010


    I don’t think Scripture tells us that “the servant of God” should speak to “the people of God”. I think the work of edification – the process of growing toward maturity – is a responsibility and function of the entire church. In other words, God can choose to speak through any of his children, not just a specific “servant of God”.


  15. 1-23-2010

    I need to clarify my comments. I do believe there is to be mutual edification. No question. Many posts here about 1 Cor 14 show that to be the case.
    My post is meant to ask the question of where the person with the position of Paul or Timothy or Titus fits in.
    It seems to me there is a place for him/her. Perhaps not in the way we see it done – the preacher in the pulpit, no real connection to the flock.
    What would that place be or look like?

  16. 1-23-2010


    Thanks for clarifying! I think the church will always need mature brothers and sisters to help them. I would suspect that this need would be more significant when the church is filled with new/immature believers. This seems to be the role of Paul, Timothy, Titus, etc.


  17. 4-13-2011

    Preach on, Bro. Alan…You must be eavesdropping and quoting me without my permission! 😉

    Hardly a week goes by that I don’t preach this sermon…”It’s past time for us to start using words properly, and stop confusing definitions and biblical mandates.”

    Ten Amens.

  18. 4-13-2011

    Lo lamentable es que se usa el púlpito para autopromoción personal, el púlpito es una linea divisoria entre clero y laico

  19. 4-13-2011


    It just rolls off the tongue doesn’t it. Maybe I should write a sermon series based on that statement…

    Juanjo Gómez Serrano,

    Sí. En su lugar, todos debemos predicar el evangelio.


  20. 4-13-2011

    I agree whole-heartedly!

    Out of curiosity, have you found what takes place every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night in so many churches… what we call “preaching” anywhere in the Bible as an activity of the church?

    That kind of preaching is not just absent in the Romans passage you cited, but in the entire New Testament.

    Blessings – Stan

  21. 4-13-2011


    Thanks for the comment. Yes, I’ve found quite a bit in Scripture about the purpose for the church gathering together. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I started this blog.


  22. 4-14-2011

    I was actually referring to “preaching” the way it is done today. Sorry for not making that part of my comment clear. There is no doubt the followers of Jesus gathered together, but there is no Scriptural evidence that a “preached sermon” to a gathered group of believers was a New Testament practice.

  23. 4-14-2011


    No, I haven’t found any evidence of preaching to the church in the NT either.


  24. 8-11-2011

    Agreed! Thanks Alan.

  25. 8-11-2011

    Thank you, Alan, for keeping the language clear, as well as the thought behind the words expressed in scripture. My friend Jon Zens has a whole new book on this and closely related subjects, “The Pastor Has No Clothes”:

  26. 2-1-2012

    Funny. I just finished reading a book this a.m. that says Romans 10 is referring to giving sermons. I’m writing a review today on the book and point out that he has that wrong, mostly.

  27. 2-1-2012

    Preach it!

    It’s amazing how simply obvious things like this are in scripture, and yet how non-obvious they are to much of today’s church. Our methodology has become our theology, and it affects the way we interpret God’s Word.

  28. 1-10-2013

    thanks for re-posting Alan

  29. 6-24-2013

    ohhh if only we used words properly!!

    Thank you for this! 🙂